Journey To “X”

September 22, 2015

We’d been planning it for months.

7th grader Spencer Kamens and I told our parents that we wanted to go to an Ed Sheeran “X” tour concert. Back then, we didn’t realize it wasn’t in Philadelphia. Not even close.

At the beginning of the summer, we bought the tickets for the Ed Sheeran concert, thinking it was in Philadelphia. 2 adult, 2 child. Then we spent the summer trying to make enough money to pay back our parents. We finally did it just a few weeks before the concert.

About a month after we (well, our parents) bought the tickets, I was looking over the tour schedule. Woah. Hold up. What? Why was there no concert in Philly? And on the night we supposedly had OUR concert in Philadelphia. . . Ed Sheeran was in Washington D.C.

We eventually figured it out and surprisingly, our parents allowed us to go. The plan changed over and over again. Would we stay overnight in DC? Would we take the train up or drive? Would my mom go or not? We finally figured it out after a lot of miscommunication and confusion. Spencer’s mother, and a family friend of their’s would pick us up after school and drive straight to DC. Spencer and I drew on t-shirts in flex period, snacked in the car and taught the adults some of Ed Sheeran’s songs.

As we arrive into the DC area, the energy level in the backseat grows. We are jumping in our seats, literally. We play his latest album, X, on repeat and scream the lyrics. Some old guy in a pickup truck stares at us through the windows. Oops. . .

We near the subway station parking lot. Get our bags ready, put on our homemade concert t-shirts, buy subway tickets. We walk into the station and see lots of groups of young teenage girls wearing Ed Sheeran shirts. I guess he has a very particular type of fan. . .

Spencer, her mom, Candace and I got on the train. The fuzzy female voice of the loud-speaker comes on. Somehow, a woman sitting near us is able to discern what ‘she’ says. Apparently, the line our train is on has lost power and we have to get off at this stop. We’ll get more information on the platform.

Are you serious? This is kind of ridiculous, I think. Why now? Not tomorrow? But it’s happening today, right now. So everyone slowly files off the train. We wait on the platform for a few minutes. We make small talk and Spencer starts doing my hair (I know, I know, typical girl). An incoherent voice echoes around the platform. I have absolutely no idea what the voice is saying. A young man dressed in sagging jeans and a worn-out Redskins t-shirt looks up from his phone and responds when Kim asks what the voice just said. The man says that we should go and get a shuttle or go to the other side of the station to catch another train. Our little group sighs almost in unison and we pick up our stuff and walk towards the gates to the other side of the platform.

We just manage to make the next train and Spencer and I watch the buildings grow taller and taller and more frequent as we near the city. Finally we arrive at the Gallery Place-Chinatown station. Kim, Candace, Spencer, and I get off the train and head up the escalator into the city.

Candace wants to go to this “really cool pizza place” her friend told her about. It’s called & Pizza. (And Pizza). It’s only a few blocks away so we walk over and order our custom pizzas.

As we sit outside in the warm September night air, Kim checks her phone to make sure that we’ll make it in time for the opening act. “Shoot! It starts in 5 minutes.”

Uh oh. “You know they usually don’t start until half an hour after they’re supposed to anyway,” Candace says reasonably.

Phew. I guess we can still finish the pizza. We finish our pizza shortly and make our way down to the Verizon Center. There is a GINORMOUS line of people outside of the Center. Actually, I don’t know if you could really call it a line, more of a semi-rectangular group. We bypass the “line” and find an entrance with not nearly as many people.

As soon as we get inside, Spencer and I rush over to the throng of people standing in front of the merchandise table. We spend a few minutes deciding what to buy. I get a t-shirt and Spencer chooses a different shirt and another beanie to add to her ever-growing collection. As soon as the bag holding our stuff is handed over, Spencer grabs her new hat and shoves it on.

Grinning widely, Spencer and I drag Candace and Kim toward the door to the seating area. We are met with the disapproving expression of an older woman wearing a security uniform, “Hold on a second, girls. Where are your tickets?” Kim pulls them out of her bag and the lady scans them. “Now you can go,” she says as she hands them back to Kim.

I am even more exited as we enter the huge space and basically jump down the stairs to our seats. I almost trip on the stairs and I grip the railing tightly to keep from tumbling down. I probably would. I’m kinda clumsy.

It takes about half an hour before the giant room darkens and a spotlight shines on the stage. Music begins and the curtains open, there stands Christina Perri.

As we sing/scream through Christina Perri’s act, Kim goes out and gets Spencer and I water ice. Thanks, Kim!

Finally, Christina ends with one of her most popular songs, Human. “I heard you guys came out here to see someone named Ed Sheeran?” she asks us as she sips from a water bottle. We scream in response, because that’s what you do at a concert.

“Well, maybe if you scream loud enough he’ll come out for you!” We scream louder than before, because that’s what you do at a concert. Christina Perri puts her hand to ear, “A little louder, guys!”

We scream even louder, because that’s hat you do at a concert. Finally, she says, “Alright, I think that might be loud enough!” And the audience screams again.

Then we see him, he comes out wearing a flannel shirt, jeans, and some sneakers. Not quite the look Christina Perri had going. He hugs Christina while the set crew takes all of the instruments from her show off of the stage and replace them with a stool, some speakers, a microphone, and a pedal with a bunch of wires.

Christina walks off and Ed Sheeran sits down on the stool in the middle of the stage. “Hey guys,” comes his smiling English voice.

We all scream louder than we ever did for Christina Perri, because that’s what you do at a concert.

“So at a show I did in Canada a while back, some people thought I had a band hidden in the back, that I couldn’t possibly make all that music with just me,” he chuckles and we all laugh and scream in response, because that’s what you do at a concert. After that show they came and wanted their money back, saying I had scammed them or something. So now I have to give you all a disclaimer, here it is.” He carries on with a bunch of words I don’t understand and just tune out of.

“Alright guys, now here’s the thing. At the end of this night, when you’re on your way home, I don’t want any of you to be able to talk,” he says smiling. We laugh, because that’s what you do at a concert. “I don’t care if you’re singing completely off-key, just scream it out. And if you don’t know the words, just make them up or learn them fast!” He laughs and we laugh too. “Here we go!”

And then he begins.

As soon as he starts, Spencer and I look at each other with big grins. This is our jam! I’m a Mess. We scream along with the lyrics and when the song ends, the screams of the audience last FOREVER.

Throughout the concert, the huge screens at the back of the stage show cool designs, photos, drawings, and doodles.

My voice is hoarse halfway through Ed Sheeran’s bit of the concert and my arm hurts from taking a ten minute long video. Yes I know, I’m crazy, no storage left on my phone and my arm aches. But it was a good video!

Between the middle and 75% the way through, Christina Perri comes out and they sing a repetitive upbeat song about love (Be My Forever). After Be My Forever, an old guy holding a harmonica comes out. He and Ed Sheeran perform an amazing rendition of Thinking Out Loud while the music video plays on the screens behind them.

About three-quarters of the way through the concert, I realize 4 things.

  1. My feet hurt from standing and jumping in place for about 2 and a half hours straight
  2. My throat is hurting from screaming/singing
  3. My cheeks hurt from smiling so hard
  4. I can’t hear my own voice, just the music surrounding me

Now, I’ve been to a few concerts before, Taylor Swift, Cher Lloyd, Bruno Mars, Paul McCartney. . . But never before had I been this happy and excited both before and during the concert. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that this was the first one I’d been to without my parents. I look over at Spencer and shout, “Does your face hurt too?” She motions toward her ear and shakes her head. Oops, a bit too loud in here. I lean in to her ear, “Does your face hurt from smiling too?” She grins and nods happily.

We continue with the concert, I take photos and videos, then post them on Instagram until my phone dies. We scream the lyrics when we know them (pretty much the whole time) and just scream when we don’t.

It’s nearing 11 and Ed Sheeran says, “Are all of your voices hoarse?” We scream, because that’s what you do at a concert, even when your voice is hoarse. “Alright, it’s time for the last song. Except it’s not really the last song, you guys know how this works.”

He begins the chords for The A Team and everybody who recognizes it screams, those who don’t recognize the song scream along with everybody else, because that’s what you do at a concert.

Everyone is singing along with Ed Sheeran, so loud that I can barely hear the musician himself. It’s amazing.

When The A Team ends, and Ed Sheeran walks off, the clapping and screaming goes on for at least 6 minutes and as it is beginning to die down, he comes back out again. The clapping and screaming resumes with even more vigor than before.

He waves his arms in a “settle-down” manner and we fall silent in a remarkable amount of time. He begins the encore with a high-energy remix of You Need Me, I Don’t Need You. We scream along with the lyrics that we know and jump up and down with the beat.

After You Need Me, I Don’t Need You, he pauses, takes a drink of water, and then grins.

“Okay guys,” he says. “Are your voices gone yet?”

We scream in response, because that’s what you do at a concert.

“Good. You sound pretty hoarse. By the end of this song, I want you to be so hoarse you can barely speak. Let’s get started with Sing.

“Alright, I want you to clap to the beat. Like this,” he claps a simple beat and we repeat when he tells us too.

“And now when I point at you, I want you to sing this, over and over. Don’t change it, just keep repeating it. Here we go: ‘Oh-oh-oh-ooh-oh,'” he sings. He points to the audience, “Now it’s your turn!

We repeat it with him and after a couple of times, he says, “Good! There’s another one you have to do as well, it goes like this, ‘Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh,’ When I hold up two fingers you sing that one.”

We sing the short piece with him and after a few rounds, he plays the beginning guitar chords.

We stop the singing and he begins.

“It’s late in the evening/Glass on the side/I’ve been sat with you/For most of the night. . .”

About 40 seconds into the song, he points at us. We go “Oh-oh-oh-ooh-oh!”

He sings a couple lines and we’re at it again, “Oh-oh-oh-ooh-oh”

“Sing!” He holds up two fingers. We sing, “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”

“Louder!” Two fingers go up. “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”

“Sing!” Again, he has two fingers up.

“This love is a blaze. . . “

He continues singing and we sing “oh” repeatedly when he points at us, or holds up two fingers.

About the middle of the piece he motions for us to keep repeating the long “oh”. So we do.

The high-energy piece ends and we’re left with smiles on our faces, dry throats, and a very happy feeling.

As Kim, Candace, Spencer, and I file out of the seating area, up the steep stairs, out of the door to the lobby-area, through the swarms of people, and through the metal detector gates, I notice how cold it’s gotten since we arrived in DC. It’s then that I think about how far and long of a drive it is back. If it was about a two and a half hour drive here, and it’s now eleven o’clock. . . That means we won’t get back to Spencer’s house until about one in the morning, because we have to drop Candace off at her house and then go to Spencer’s.

We walk a block to the underground Metro station and on the other side of the platform, a huge group of people from the concert break out in a flash mob of Thinking Out Loud.  Kim films it on her phone and sends it to Ed Sheeran on Instagram, although it’s more likely to be someone his manager hired to check all of his social media for stuff like this.

The train pulls up, and we hop on to go home.